Overseas Civilian Contractors

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Hundreds of Army Social Scientists Unqualified, Former Boss Says

by Spencer Ackerman at Wired’s Danger Room

Nearly five years after the Army began a controversial program to embed social scientists in combat units, the former director and chief bureaucratic force behind the program says that over a third of those researchers never should have been part of the program in the first place.

“Thirty to 40 percent of the people were not qualified,” says Steve Fondacaro, the retired Army colonel who ran the Human Terrain System from its 2006 birth until he was ousted in June. He’s speaking out in a rare post-firing interview because the contract to supply HTS with social-science experts is up for grabs — and the company that handled the job for the last five years hobbled the program, he says.

The Army’s Training and Doctrine Commands disagrees, and the company, BAE Systems, didn’t answer Danger Room’s questions. But with the program expanding, the ability of the next HTS contractor to provide local commanders with quality cultural advisers could make an enormous difference in the American combat efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq.  Simply put, if the United States can’t understand the populations it deals with in complex, irregular wars like Afghanistan — their traditions, their social structures, their power dynamics — then American counterinsurgency efforts are in deep trouble.

“Dealing with BAE was extremely difficult,” Fondacaro tells Danger Room. The contractor found it staggeringly difficult to provide “what I needed in terms of people and functions” for the program. That is, social scientists who both were physically and intellectually fit to operate in austere conditions in Iraq and Afghanistan, and who were “flexible enough to work with a military organization.”

But BAE struck Fondacaro as “unwilling to do the hard work in terms of screening and testing, finding the people capable of working with the energy, the intellectual capacity and the competence for this exercise we were about to embark on.” In one case, BAE provided HTS with an octogenarian Iraqi-American for a job translating in Iraq.

In another case, it gave HTS an applicant with a warrant out for her arrest for vehicular manslaughter — “which could have been easily ascertained through a cursory background investigation,” says Montgomery McFate, until recently the program’s top social scientist. “While BAE sent us some amazing people, they also sent us some people who were clearly not deployable,” she adds.

“Some of the people they were sending me were not up to par, and I had to let them go from the program,” Fondacaro says. “We had some people who did not work out downrange. It was just a very uncooperative arrangement.”

Please read the whole story here

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Human Terrain’ Contractors’ Pay Suddenly Slashed

Petraeus Quietly Disses ‘Human Terrain’

December 21, 2010 Posted by | Afghanistan, Civilian Contractors, Iraq, Pentagon | , , , , , | Leave a comment